Bipolar disorder (BD) is a chronic, recurrent, serious illness that occurs in 1 % of people
globally. Patients might become psychotic, suicidal and sometimes violent. They often need
to be hospitalised, even against their will because they may have no insight. Patients may
have a comorbid condition such as substance abuse or a personality disorder. They are
frequently unable to fulfil their assigned roles of spouse, breadwinner, parent or adult child.
Caregivers of patients diagnosed with BD are also affected by the illness and the associated
stigma. It becomes very difficult for them when they have to take over the responsibilities
and roles of the patient. The nature of this impact on the social functioning of the caregivers,
understood from an ecological systems perspective, is relevant for social work in the mental
health care field. Discovering more about this impact and developing an intervention to curb
it therefore formed the rationale for this study.
The integrated biopsychosocial model, within an ecological systems perspective, is being
used at the psychiatric institution where the researcher works. This approach therefore also
served as the point of departure from which this research was conducted.
A mixed methods research approach was utilised to provide a comprehensive analysis of
the research problem.
The proposed study fell into the category of applied research, due to its aim of designing a
programme to assist caregivers of people diagnosed with BD. The researcher directed the
study according to Rothman and Thomas’s (1994) intervention design and development
model (D&D), using qualitative and quantitative methods.
After the analysis of the qualitative data a unique psychosocial educational programme, the
SEE-SAW programme, was developed and then implemented. The concept of equilibrium
versus disequilibrium in the system is central; the researcher’s programme therefore strove
towards better equilibrium within the system of patient and caregiver.
From the conclusions it is apparent that the caregiver of the BD patient is exposed to a wide
spectrum of needs and challenges, but that interventions such as the SEE-SAW programme
may be very helpful.